Sunday, April 30, 2006

Vacation? I'm not ready!

I spent a good chunk of today stringing soaker hose around my garden beds, so that the cat-sitter can water things by just turning on the faucet-- since he or she will have to hand-water several potted trees and my gladiolas, geraniums, and etc. I'm going to line up several of the planters at the loose end of the soaker hose and loop it around them, so that it's as easy as possible. Also potted several tiny things out of 3-inch pots and into big pots, so that I can water them once and they'll be ok.

Another thing we need to do before we go on vacation is to eat this little cauliflower. This is a picture of it from last weekend, when it was about softball sized. Now it's twice that, and still firm, but starting to have a 'bad hair day' as it thinks about bolting in the recent warm weather. Wups! Better have it for dinner tomorrow! Also need to pick peas, as the sugar-snap pods are plumping up, which makes them stringy. We also need to eat a whole bunch of lettuce, as I had to pull out a small section of the lettuce bed that was overshadowing a tomato-- lettuce liked the colder weather more than the tomato did. Missed the Weekend Herb Blogging deadline running soaker hose around until dark, mea culpa.

I also moved the two potted fig trees, a Violetta and a bargain 'mystery fig', out of the greenhouse today. We haven't moved the greenhouse to its rightful home, off of our patio deck, and temps are in the 80's there during the day even with all vents and the door open. The figs love to respire, and are using up about 3 gallons every other day. There's a good breba crop of figs, as you can see in this photo (about half again the size of a ping-pong ball but still very hard) and I hope that moving the trees outside doesn't mess them up. After they finish with the spring figs, they're both getting transplanted into 32-gal plastic garbage cans, with a deep watering pipe. My old porch fig tree on my apt balcony thrived in that scenario. I'd like to put one of them in the ground here, but the park management takes a dim view of non-dwarf trees, and these would definitely get BIG.

Some of my tomatoes are growing suckers, so I pinched them off this weekend. The tomatoes at the local hardware stores are HUGE, making me grumble internally about 'so why do I go to all this trouble raising seedlings?', especially since there are so many heirlooms available this year-- Lemon Boy, Brandywine, Black Krim, Black Prince, Mr Stripey/Tangella, etc etc. Heirloom tomatoes are now mainstream. Well, I'm still growing a few I haven't seen, and all those foot-tall, thumb-thick tomato plants in 4-inch pots will spend the next several weeks growing their roots out, so we'll probably all get tomatoes at the same time anyway. Or so I keep telling myself!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pictures! We promised Pictures!

It's nicely overcast, which means I can take some snapshots of all that work we were doing yesterday in the garden! Voila, the barren wasteland that *was* going to be our greenhouse is now a gardenscape. We're going to put the greenhouse behind the patio instead, as the sun patterns are better there: the side garden location depicted would blast the greenhouse with too much sun in the summer, and not enough in the winter. And it's visible from the street, which irks park management. So now only a pretty gardenscape will be visible to the neighbors and passers-by, and the greenhouse will be a couple of steps off the back porch, which encourages management of it in bad weather.

I decided to go for mixed flower and veggie beds, as I wanted a garden I could sit out in, and that would be pleasant to view. I also love bringing flowers indoors, and wanted some things that would be good for cut flowers. I'll be planting zinnias, cosmos, cornflowers, etc to that end later as well. In the close-up, we see lobelia next to an Amish Paste tomato, then a couple of anchor perennials-- a pink-flowered yarrow (currently only a tiny fern-like clump) and a tall fragrant dianthus; at the far right there's a clump of french lavender. Along the border are alyssum and viola, with fragrant stock next, then Wonderland Mix poppies. Next row from the poppies are some Genovese Basil seedlings, and then a triad of Yolo Wonder peppers are caged.

Finally, since this is Weekend Herb Blogging, here's the new little permanent herb bed I created in the side garden. Clockwise from noon we have variegated sage, variegated oregano, lemon thyme, 'spicy' oregano (and it is: don't let that cute fuzzy look fool ya!), sweet marjoram. I wasn't sure what to put in the middle, so I popped a couple of dwarf snapdragons in there for color.

The garden is finally starting to shape up, hurrah!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Let There Be Chip (and Lilies)

A week of no rain has resulted in the side garden being dry enough to lay down weedblock and chip, and lo, the Sunnyvale SMaRT Center finally had chip-- we've arrived too late to get any in past weekends. For good measure, we conducted a huge cilantro harvest and levelled out Cilantro Hill, the mounded topsoil from levelling the side bed area. Another 3x3 foot bed was set up, paths were laid out and chipped, and suddenly the side garden looks like a GARDEN instead of a construction zone. Huzzah!
Siloam David Kirchoff
Mike mixed a couple of barrow-loads of potting soil for me- two parts store-bought potting soil, two parts compost, one part each vermiculite and perlite. I had received some daylilies ordered via eBay on Thursday, and they really needed planting! I think the folks might have given me some bonus plants, or perhaps I just wasn't counting. I filled two long shallow planters and one large square planter, and still needed to tuck a few daylily crowns into garden beds here and there. Yeep. They are looking somewhat draggly, as paper-wrapped mailed plants sometimes do, but I am hoping they'll perk up by tomorrow.
Olallie Lime
What did I get? Too darn many daylilies, but I hope to have them for years, and I chose colors that I like, that go well with each other, and that go well with other flowers I like to grow. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The lilies were packed very well and carefully, roots were clean (no mold, rot, etc), and bundled into tag-labelled groups. Of course, I immediately got the tags MIXED UP, so I finally just planted willy-nilly and tossed the tags. I know, I know.
Siloam Ribbon Candy

Paper Butterfly
[Photos by excellent daylily seller nrb44 via eBay. Top to bottom: Siloam David Kirchoff, Olallie Lime, Siloam Ribbon Candy, Paper Butterfly.]

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Crops of the Americas Stamps Coming Soon

These great new stamps, featuring traditional crops from the Americas, will be available sometime during this year. I'm planning to stock up!

Thanks to the folks at Turning Toward the Light, a garden and woodland conservation blog, for the pointer.

Garden Goodies

There's been a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes, and not nearly enough blogging. Mea culpa! As you can see, things are coming up all over. We've gotten several nice batches of broccoli cuts for dinners, but I had to pull the 2nd patch of broccoli due to a sudden infestation of grey aphids. Perhaps I ought to have tried harder to rescue it, but they had gotten quite a foothold while I was ill for almost a week and not keeping tabs on the garden. Have planted yellow and purple bush beans where they were pulled, so the bed is percolating at least.

There's a nice feeling about being able to pull together a dinner salad for 5 - 6 folks from the garden, especially just in time for Weekend Herb Blogging. Batavian Nevada lettuce seeded a few weeks ago joined the new 'cut and come again' mesclun mix and some nasturtium flowers and tender new nasturtium leaves to make a yummy salad. Nasturtiums are a gorgeously edible flower, but many folks overlook the leaves. Added judiciously to a salad, they are excellent: chew one by itself, and you'll get a tangy, peppery mouthful that may be too much to handle. One bonus of the chilly, wet weather-- almost no ants to chase out of the nasturtium blossoms. You really want to inspect those closely before putting in a salad. I tend to cut or pull the petals off-- you lose the sweet/hot nectar reservoir of the flower, but you also discard any ants. I'm growing two types of viola as well, but I always seem to forget about adding them to salads. They're just so pretty right where they are!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Garden Desktop: Mesclun Seedlings

Young mesclun lettuce mix seedlings in one of our raised beds. A splash of spring color! Full-size image at link is 1280 by 960, for larger desktops.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Aw, go soak yer phaseolus!

What's that? Them's fightin' words? Vulgar language? Not to us gardeners!

We're talking phaseolus vulgaris, better known as our friend the bean. It's time to start 'em in six-packs indoors, or even put them outside, if you haven't already. But first, just like you would for cooking, you want to soak them. OK, not precisely like you would for cooking, if you tend to do the boil-then-soak routine. Lukewarm or room temperature water, please, no boiling. Soak beans for planting no more than 12 hours. Overnight is ideal.

At that point, you can either plant directly, or you can put them in between damp paper towels to sprout slightly before planting. You have to be very careful not to knock the sprouts off if you do this. I've done it with peas routinely, but I usually just soak and plant beans.

The beans on the right are a mix of purple and yellow pod bush beans. The ones on the left are mung beans, also called noodle beans or yard-long beans. Cellophane noodles are made with the dried bean flour, but I'm growing them for the bean pods to use in stir-fry. I looked them up and they're not a phaseolus at all, they're a vigna, a vigna unguiculata to be precise. The folks at Wikipedia say they're a v. radiata, but I tend to trust the University of Melbourne bean specialists a bit more. I'm hoping they take to soaking as nicely as regular beans. This is the first year I've grown them. The beans, not the specialists. I've never grown specialists, as far as I know.

If you find beans that you like at the store, you can probably plant them. I set aside some Scarlet Runner beans and some Gigandes beans that a friend brought to me from Phipps Ranch. I soaked the first batch of Scarlet Runners last week, and I have some beanlets in 6-packs out in the greenhouse. Unfortunately several of them have been topped off by snails but I moved them up onto a shelf last night, and put copper tape around the legs of the shelf. And stomped a few ginORmous snails last night out in the rain.
I completely encourage you to try Scarlet Runners, btw-- the cooked bean tastes almost like chestnuts to me. It's a rich, complex flavor that has nothing to do with pintos in a can. I was wow'd, and said "These are SO going in my garden, toot sweet!" (Tuit de suite, but you know what I mean.)